Liv­ing in and dec­o­rat­ing a 100-year-old Craftsman

The Progress-Index - At Home - - NEWS - By Solvej Schou

PASADENA, Calif. — My love of 100-year-old Cal­i­for­nia Craftsman bun­ga­lows — those low-slung, early 20th cen­tury Arts and Crafts-era homes known for their clean, hor­i­zon­tal lines and sturdy wood­work — runs long and deep.

I grew up in one in Hol­ly­wood, out­fit­ted with dark, wooden, built-in cab­i­nets and ex­posed beams, and my fam­ily lives in one in South Pasadena, north­east of down­town Los An­ge­les, with a swoop­ing Ja­panese-style roof. My fi­ancé, Dave, and I rent a small, cen­tury-old Craftsman house here in Pasadena's land­mark dis­trict Bun­ga­low Heaven, home to more than 1,000 his­toric bun­ga­lows, most of them Crafts­mans.

Why do I ap­pre­ci­ate them? One word: unique­ness. Each tra­di­tional Craftsman house is dif­fer­ent, with its own per­son­al­ity (in our rental, the toi­let is in a sep­a­rate room from the bath­room sink and bath­tub) and an em­pha­sis on nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als and col­ors, from slate gray to clay brown. Ar­chi­tec­tural twists such as sleep­ing porches, wideopen en­trances, and pil­lars made out of stone were built as a min­i­mal­ist re­ac­tion against in­dus­trial de­sign and as an ode to warmer weather and (then) fresher air. Dec­o­rat­ing a Craftsman is also a la­bor of love.

"The whole Craftsman move­ment was about re­dis­cov­er­ing hand­made things," says Sue Moss­man, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the preser­va­tion non-profit Pasadena Her­itage. "There's a nat­u­ral 'form fol­lows func­tion' ap­proach. Ev­ery­thing has a pur­pose to it as well as a beauty."

Gus­tav Stick­ley, who started mak­ing Arts and Crafts-style fur­ni­ture and ac­ces­sories in the late 19th cen­tury, has long rep­re­sented the pin­na­cle of Craftsman de­sign. An­tique Stick­ley hand-fin­ished, solid-wood arm­chairs, ta­bles and couches, de­fined by a sleek ver­ti­cal-lined "mis­sion" style, can run up­wards of $5,500 to­day. Moss­man, who lives in a tra­di­tional Craftsman and says she owns a cou­ple of "fine Stick­ley pieces," views the fur­ni­ture, like Crafts­mans them­selves, as hav­ing last­ing ap­peal.

"In the 1980s and '90s, the value of th­ese an­tique pieces went through the roof," she says. "It has dropped off since then, but the value of orig­i­nal pieces is still very high."

Since Dave and I, like many, can't af­ford the prized brand, we searched for much less pricey, though not nec­es­sar­ily hand­made, fur­ni­ture and dec­o­ra­tions for our place. There are strong con­nec­tions be­tween the Craftsman and mid­cen­tury mod­ern move­ments when it comes to sim­ple func­tion­al­ism, says Moss­man. My Craftsman rental is a mix­ture of both.

We found a mod­estly priced, tan 1963 Lane Ac­claim wal­nut wood cof­fee ta­ble with dove­tail edges at an an­tique store to fit in with the earthy Craftsman color scheme in our liv­ing room. Our faux-Craftsman, geo­met­ric mica glass, wood and metal liv­ing room ta­ble lamp we snagged on sale for $150 at re­tailer Lamps Plus to perch on top of a Wil­don Home mis­sion-style, espresso-hued end ta­ble for not much more.

Bought at a nearby sofa store, our couch is made out of choco­late-brown wood and tweed, a mid­cen­tury mod­ern re­pro­duc­tion called "The Draper." Our vin­tage liv­ing room rug is a '60s striped blend of warm orange, green, pink and white. We also picked up glass vases, Arts and Crafts-style wooden frames and din­ner­ware from flea mar­kets and on­line through Etsy and eBay. Call it Craftsman flair with a dash of "Mad Men" thrown in.

"Even if it's a re­pro­duc­tion, peo­ple who ap­pre­ci­ate the character of their house will be able to pick things that suit that same per­son­al­ity," notes Moss­man.

In­spi­ra­tion es­pe­cially came in the form of a trip to the cus­tom-fur­nished, three-story Gam­ble House, Pasadena's premier ex­am­ple of Cal­i­for­nia Craftsman ar­chi­tec­ture. It was de­signed by the ar­chi­tec­tural firm Greene & Greene in 1908 as a roomy win­ter home for David and Mary Gam­ble, of Proc­ter & Gam­ble. Inside, we stood sur­rounded by curved stair­way ban­is­ters, smooth sur­faces, and wooden pegs all made out of soft ma­hogany, teak, oak, maple and cedar.

"Craftsman style has a ca­sual but clean simplicity to it that can be dressed up or dressed down," notes Alvin Huang, an ar­chi­tect and Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia School of Ar­chi­tec­ture as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor.

Af­ter­ward, in the gift shop, Dave and I bought a clay tile, sim­i­lar to those in the Gam­ble House, dec­o­rated with a light yel­low and white frog. It sits on our end ta­ble, next to the lamp, with more Craftsman-wor­thy knick­knacks to come.

This Thurs­day, Dec. 25, 2014, photo shows an au­then­tic Stick­ley an­tique wooden side­board with plate rack in a tra­di­tional Craftsman bun­ga­low in South Pasadena, Calif. Gus­tav Stick­ley, who started mak­ing Arts and Crafts-style fur­ni­ture and ac­ces­sories...

This Wed­nes­day, Dec. 24, 2014, photo shows a re­pro­duc­tion Craftsman style lamp, clay tile and mis­sion style end ta­ble in the liv­ing room of writer Solvej Schou and her fiance’s cen­tury-old Craftsman rental house in Pasadena, Calif.

This Feb 12, 2014, file photo shows a home in the “Bun­ga­low Heaven” dis­trict in Pasadena, Calif. Bun­ga­low Heaven is a 16 block neigh­bor­hood, des­ig­nated Pasadena’s very first pre­served his­toric land­mark dis­trict in 1989, con­sist­ing of more than 1,000...

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